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Neurath, Konstantin Freiherr von (1873-1956)
Foreign Minister of Germany from 1932-1938, and Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia from 1939-1941
Born in Wuerttemberg, Neurath entered the diplomatic service in 1901 and served as Ambassador to Denmark, Italy, and Great Britain in the 1920s. In June 1932, he was appointed Foreign Minister in Franz von Papen's "non-political" cabinet of experts, a position he continued to hold under Kurt von Schleicher and then (at Paul von Hindenburg's insistence) under Hitler. He provided a useful facade of respectability while Hitler still moved cautiously in foreign policy, but was replaced by Joachim von Ribbentrop in February 1938, when the Fuehrer was ready for a more aggressive course of action. Hitler again used Neurath for appearance' sake when he made the ex-minister the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia following the destruction of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. In that capacity, Neurath presided over, even if he did not initiate, the crushing of all autonomous political and cultural life and the implementation of anti-Jewish measures identical to those already in force in Germany. He was once again brushed aside, this time by Reinhard Heydrich, when even more draconian measures were desired in September 1941. Accused by many of indolence and apathy, Neurath was characterised by his biographer as an intensely private man who felt a strong sense of duty, but never conceived of political life in moral terms. Joseph Goebbels complained of him, 'This man has nothing in common with us.' In fact, Neurath was all too typical of the many nationalist conservative fellow travellers, whom the Nazis so effectively duped and exploited. A defendant before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, he was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. He was released in 1954 after eight years in the Spandau prison.
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